Since 2009, USDA has been investing in programs and projects aimed at improving the Mississippi River Basin. It's all part of the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watershed Initiative. This week, the agency announced 23 new projects as part of this program that will avoid, control and trap sediment and nutrient runoff from agricultural lands, improving water quality throughout their operations.
During a conference call announcing the new projects, Dave White, chief, USDA Natural Resources Conservation District notes that these 23 projects will join 95 projects announced in the last 2 years bringing the three-year total to 118 projects. "This represents another $8.4 million investment into the new projects," White says. "Total funding is $190 million in these selected watershed basins."
Add up the projects, and White says USDA is now working with 520 small watersheds throughout the 13 involved states. He notes that with the latest projects some of the focus in the South will change with an added focus on water quantity issues in addition to water quality issues. "This is an issue in the Delta and other Southern areas and was added as a focus last year," he notes.
Adds Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack: "We are building on our Mississippi River actions from previous years by continuing to target priority conservation practices in priority watersheds to improve water quality in the basin. USDA is committed to working cooperatively with agricultural producers, partner organizations and state and local agencies to improve water quality and the quality of life for the millions of people who live in the Mississippi River Basin."
The 23 selected projects are located in Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Here are a few examples of the new programs selected for implementation this year:
- Middle Cache River Project (Arkansas) - $222,900 to improve water quality, reduce sediment and enhance wildlife habitat in a watershed near the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge. This project supports the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, a commitment by federal, state, and local entities to preserve and protect the nation's natural and cultural heritage. Sponsor: the Jackson County Conservation District.
- Upper Minnesota River Project (South Dakota) - $247,287 to improve water quality by helping landowners avoid, control and trap nutrient and sediment runoff from private and Tribal lands. Sponsors: the Roberts Conservation District, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe and others.
- Lindsey-Honey Creek Watershed Project (Iowa) - $329,000 to reduce nitrogen entering the Mississippi River from the Maquoketa River Basin. Sponsor: The Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation District.
- Middle Fork of Salt River Watershed Project (Missouri) - $366,188 to improve and monitor water quality and agricultural productivity. Sponsor: Randolph County Soil and Water Conservation District.